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A new way to breathe easier

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A minimally invasive surgical procedure to prevent airways constricting could substantial improve control of asthma and reduce reliance on medication to manage the condition.

An Australian trial of 17 patients has found that bronchial thermoplasty, which involves using the heated tip of a catheter inserted into the airway to burn away excess smooth muscle, has found the procedure to be safe while delivering significant benefits in controlling asthma.

The procedure has been likened to the use of laser surgery to improve eyesight, and Director of Thoracic Medicine at Peninsula Health, Associate Professor David Langton, who was lead researcher of the trial, said the technique could be a game changer.

“We’re at the tip of a new paradigm for how we treat asthma,” A/Professor Langton. “The results of these trials could have a global impact and completely revolutionise our approach.”

Around 2.3 million Australians have asthma, and up to 10 per cent have difficulty managing the condition using standard treatments such as inhalers.

The trial involved patients with both moderate and severe forms of the condition, and found response to bronchial thermoplasty was greatest among those suffering asthma the worst. Encouragingly, the benefits have been sustained.

A/Professor Langton has called for the widespread adoption of the procedure.

“This is a safe, effective, affordable procedure that has the potential to transform the lives of people struggling to control their asthma, offering the hope of less medication and an improved quality of life,” he said. “The sooner we can make it available to those that need it, the better.”

The research was presented to the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand’s Annual Scientific Meeting.

Adrian Rollins